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South of the Border hopes to see next boom

Posted December 29, 2009

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— Its barrage of billboards and mustached mascot often grab the attention of motorists driving along Interstate 95 near the North Carolina/South Carolina border.

South of the Border, located in Dillon, is known for its giant sombrero, mini-golf course and endearing mascot, Pedro. The resort also offers a little taste of Mexican cuisine with restaurants.

Nicholas Bougoulias, of Montreal, Canada, stopped by South of the Border on Tuesday to buy fireworks. “I’m gong to Florida to shoot them,” he said.

Bougoulias described the resort as "very unusual." "It’s a place you don’t find very often,” he said.

south of the border South of the Border plans changes

But for Ryan Lombana, of Miami, Fla., the billboards build you up for a letdown.

“It’s kind of a ghost town compared to what you think you can get to,” Lombana said.

Alan Schafer opened South of the Border in 1949.

“People are in such a big hurry that they don’t enjoy their trips anymore,” Border’s spokeswoman Susanne Pelt said

By the late 1960s, when I-95 opened, the Border boomed.

“We have 300 hotel rooms. We used to have to turn business away because we were all filled up,” Pelt said.

By the 1990s, video poker was popular, but when South Carolina banned it, business at the Border went south.

Pelt, who has worked for the resort for 25 years, said increased competition also helped thin crowds. "You've had so many motels crop up all up and down the interstate,” she said.

A decade ago, South of the Border had more than 700 employees; now, it has fewer than 300.

Schafer died in July 2001. His grandson, Ryan Schafer, now owns the resort.

Management said they are trying to revive the resort to make it more attractive to the modern traveler by adding services like high-speed Internet for guests and new scanning systems for easier check-out.

“And it’s still a destination. We have family reunions,” Pelt said.


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  • itsnews2me Dec 30, 2009

    Now most towns in NC and SC have their own "South of the Border", no need to go to Dillon.

  • kitelover110 Dec 30, 2009

    It is a good place to take the kids. Just don't purchase gasoline there. The price of fuel there is at least 30 cents a gallon higher than anywhere else. I made that mistake Monday! My bad - never again!

  • tiggerjd3 Dec 29, 2009

    We take the kids there a couple times a year. They love it.. We always get a room up at the front, not the cheap ones. It has what the others have, tv, fridge and microwave. It has a patio that takes you right to the indoor pool, which the kids love. It's a cheap get away for a night. The Peddlers Steakhouse is the bomb!! Average cost is $20 a head, but you can't find a better steak anywhere else...

  • time4real Dec 29, 2009

    relic? more like toast! history! K'put!
    that dump is about as relevant as wooden nickles!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 29, 2009

    South of the Border is a relic from the past. IMHO, they should tear it down and build a new resort that appeals to travelers from the 21st Century.

  • One Good Dad Dec 29, 2009

    Ummm...I think that your gonna need more than high speed internet.

  • nothankyou Dec 29, 2009

    I have fond memories of that place in the mid-late 80's. My sisters and I would spend summers with my Grandmother in Florida and that would be our meeting point. We always had fun in the shops trying on sombraros and getting foot long hot dogs. I remember they used to have pay toilets, haha! I know it's chinzy now, but a long time ago before DVD players, laptops and PSP's, THAT was what made the long trip down 95 exciting. I do not think they can recapture the audience.

  • Fuquay Resident Dec 29, 2009

    I remember when the casinos sprang up just south of SOB. I thought that SC had just began to allow video poker, thus all the casinos, and then it sort of died out. I didn't know that SC banned video poker. I usually stop by SOB on my way back from the beach. It's a good halfway point to stop for a bathroom break and walk around a little. When I was little though, I used to love SOB, it was almost like Disney World.

  • lazerdoc Dec 29, 2009

    Not a big gambling supporter, but they were better than the porn shops and massage parlors that moved in when they closed. SC is trashy either way, at least gambling brought in revenue.

  • liskm Dec 29, 2009

    Tacky then and tacky now. JMO, a place to speed by not stop in.
    Yes, the signs are good mileage markers, that's about it!